As we have talked about several times on this blog in the last year, the long court battles over the pharmaceutical industry’s culpability in the opioid epidemic are starting to reach a conclusion. Sadly, it looks as though the Sackler family, the owners and the criminal minds behind Oxycontin, will likely be escaping any jail time or criminal charges for their past misdeeds. They are widely known to have hidden billions of dollars in off-shore accounts and tax shelters of various kinds, and that money and lack of accountability is going to allow them to ride into the sunset, largely unaffected by any punishment. The Sackler and Purdue Pharma lawsuit has not yet completely concluded, but many other drug-makers who were involved in opioid manufacturing through the 1990s have now settled for multi-billion-dollar payments to the class of victims being represented in the class-action suits. Johnson and Johnson is one key company, in that large set of companies, that recently settled with the government and others who were represented in the deal. The fact remains, however, that despite the dearth of just punishments being handed down to drug-makers amongst these lawsuits, big pharma is largely seen as the villain of the opioid epidemic. I cannot disagree with that assessment, but the interesting question for me is whether they acted alone. Of course not, of course they did not act alone. Big pharma is no scapegoat. Scapegoats are, by definition, without real blame in a situation. Big pharma played a huge role in making the opioid epidemic possible and growing it to enormously damaging levels, but were they the only key group of bad-actors? That is the question we will answer today in an article brought to you by the best drug and alcohol rehab in Florida, Florida Springs Wellness and Recovery in Panama City.
The Role of Doctors in the Opioid Epidemic
As a capitalist society, many of us have come to expect certain levels of bad intent and bad acting when it comes to large corporations, especially those which are publicly traded. Because of greed, and because of the ethical expectations assumed by officers of publicly traded companies, everything always seems to come down to profitability and stock price. In many cases, this extreme focus on money causes extreme examples of greed and grey area when it comes to basic morals and ethics in the business world. To make it most plain, most people are not shocked to find out that large pharmaceutical companies would engage in activity that was hurting patients in return for profit. The high degree of criminality of companies like Purdue Pharma was somewhat shocking, but there were thousands of doctors involved in the opioid epidemic as well. Doctors are not large corporations, they do not answer to shareholders, and they take a Hippocratic oath to “first do no harm”. As a public, therefore, we are not accustomed to large-scale criminal and morally dubious activity by the medical establishment and individual doctors. It is not shocking that pharmaceutical reps working at drug-makers could claim ignorance in response to being accused of claiming that Oxycontin was not addictive. What then, can we say about doctors who went along with those same false claims? Doctors not only had years of training and schooling where they were well-informed about the general addictive characteristics of opioid-class drugs, but they also had years of practicing before the invention of Oxycontin where knowledge of the addictiveness of opioid medications well-known fact across the world was. Of course, big pharma was willing to sell off our country’s health and safety to the highest bidder, but what of our own doctors?
The Unpunished Criminal Class
Doctors are the unpunished perpetrators of the opioid epidemic. Patients have paid for their substance use disorder with their lives and quality of lives. Pharmaceutical companies have paid billions and avoided jail. Thousands of doctors have received no punishment despite widespread agreement that the problems could not have started without them. In the Netflix documentary about the earlier opioid epidemic called “The Pharmacist”, we see that even many pharmacists were questioning the legitimacy of millions of Oxycontin pills being given to healthy people, but pharmacists were largely powerless in that midst of big-pharma’s actions and the sign-off of prescriptions from medical doctors. If the drug makers were willing to make it, and doctors were willing to prescribe it to unsuspecting or addicted patients, there was little anyone could do to stop them. Now, years down the line, less than 1% of the doctors who were responsible for patients dying and getting addicted to deadly ruinous substances have faced any professional of legal repercussions.
Doctors who knowingly (and they all knew) prescribed powerful opioids to patients who did not medically require them should face both jail time and loss of professional licenses. With more and more years now passing since the beginning of the crime, and with the large opioid-related court cases coming to an end, it looks more likely than ever that the criminal doctors who made the epidemic possible will never face any punishment at all. If you or a loved one needs more information about the best drug and alcohol rehabs in Florida, call us today. Florida Springs in Panama City offers patients the best possible drug and alcohol rehab and treatment in the Florida Panhandle region.
By T.A. Cannon